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Witness: police made mistakes in German student case

December 13, 2014

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — An expert in police practices called by lawyers for a Montana man on trial for killing a German exchange student said Friday detectives missed critical things when investigating the case.

Ron Martinelli said officers failed to adequately document the scene and said they were far short of the resources they needed to investigate.

“I’m sure these officers are trying to do the best job they can do but ... in my professional opinion, they needed more training, experience and needed to put this training into practice,” he said. “They need to let evidence and facts speak, not just statements.”

Martinelli was the defense team’s first witness called as they argue Montana law allowed Markus Kaarma to use deadly force to protect his family and property when he fatally shot 17-year-old Diren Dede in Kaarma’s garage April 27.

Police rushed to arrest and charge Kaarma with deliberate homicide, Martinelli said and said they should have done more investigation first. Missoula police testified they had enough probable cause to arrest Kaarma the same day the shooting took place.

Martinelli said he’s been paid $44,000 as an expert for the defense and prosecutors questioned his credentials saying his doctorate degree came from an unaccredited and now shuttered college in California. Martinelli said when he was a student the school was on track to accreditation and that he didn’t need a PhD to give opinions in this case.

Prosecutors argue that after a previous burglary, Kaarma was intent on harming an intruder and baited one by leaving the garage door open with a purse inside before he shot Dede.

A defense attorney contended Friday that Missoula police detective Guy Baker, the last prosecution witness, used no science in coming to his conclusions when he suggested based on blood he saw in the garage that Dede had been wounded and was standing when Kaarma fired a fatal gunshot to the head.

“They were based on common sense and the total investigation of what went on in the garage,” Baker replied.

Witnesses have testified that Kaarma fired four gunshots that early morning of April 27, and some, including Kaarma’s girlfriend, said they heard a pause between the third and final shot. Baker and Martinelli testified that the first three shots Kaarma took were aimed much lower than the fourth shot that killed Dede.

The defense also called several police officers to testify Friday afternoon and asserted that no one was really in charge of the crime scene. Detective Chris Shermer responded that a collective group of detectives, including himself, worked at the scene.

Former exchange student Robby Pazmino, 19, of Quito, Ecuador, testified Tuesday that he and Dede had engaged in “garage-hopping,” or sneaking into people’s garages, up to five times before the shooting. He said Dede went into Kaarma’s garage that night but didn’t tell him why.

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